The National Ignition Facility

At Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, a federally funded research and development center about 50 miles east of San Francisco, scientists at the National Ignition Facility (NIF) are trying to achieve self-sustaining nuclear fusion -- in other words, to create a miniature star on Earth. The core of the NIF is a house-sized spherical chamber aiming 192 massive lasers at a tiny target. One recent laser experiment focused nearly 2 megajoules (the energy consumed by 20,000 100-watt light bulbs in one second) of light energy onto a millimeter-sized sphere of deuterium and tritium in a 16-nanosecond pulse. The resulting energetic output, while far short of being a self-sustaining reaction, set a record for energy return, and has scientists hopeful as they fine-tune the targeting, material, and performance of the instruments. The facility itself bristles with machinery and instruments, impressing the producers of the movie Star Trek: Into Darkness, who used it as a film set for the warp core of the starship Enterprise.

Read more
Hints: View this page full screen. Skip to the next and previous photo by typing j/k or ←/→.

Most Recent

  • DenisTangneyJr / iStockphoto / Getty

    Massachusetts: Images of the Bay State

    A few glimpses of the landscape of Massachusetts, and some of the animals and people calling it home

  • Joseph Eid / AFP / Getty

    Photos of the Week: Watery Labyrinth, Giza Necropolis, Wuhan Opera

    Movie-making in Italy, a drive-in viewing of the World Series in Los Angeles, a church set ablaze in Chile, wildfires in Colorado, balloon crop-spraying in China, rescued huskies in Russia, and much more

  • Athit Perawongmetha / Reuters

    Photos: Prodemocracy Protests in Thailand

    A recent string of demonstrations against Thailand’s military-backed government continues despite crackdowns by officials.

  • Maxim Shemetov / Reuters

    Fall Is in the Air: Images of the Season

    Bundle up, maybe grab a mug of hot cider, and enjoy this batch of recent fall photos.